The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Detention Watch Network (DWN) welcome today’s report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), holding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accountable for its failed detention inspections system. One ICE employee told OIG investigators it is “very, very, very difficult to fail” inspections, and another called the inspections “useless.”
The report, titled "ICE's Inspections and Monitoring of Detention Facilities Do Not Lead to Sustained Compliance or Systemic Improvements," mirrors many findings made by the National Immigrant Justice Center and Detention Watch Network in a 2015 report, which analyzed ICE inspection reports obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests and found the system obscures and perpetuates widespread abuses of detained immigrants. NIJC’s analysis of November 2017 data found that every ICE jail and prison had passed every inspection since 2012, even at facilities where multiple people had died, some as a result of medical neglect. In 2015, NIJC and DWN found that only one out of 100 facilities had failed an ICE inspection since 2009.
”This report confirms what the people behind bars in immigration jails already know: migrants in detention suffer abuses, rights deprivations, and neglect, and ICE has no interest in investigating or remedying these harms,” said NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman. “Human lives and dignity are on the line and the Executive Branch has failed; Congress must intervene by shutting down this dangerous and broken system.”
The OIG found that ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations inspections, administered by Nakamoto Group, Inc., are especially problematic. These inspections, which take place annually at about 100 ICE-contracted jails, are the ones which determine whether ICE may continue contracting with a facility under a 2009 appropriations law. Overall, the OIG found that the scope of the Nakamoto inspections is too broad, ICE’s guidance on procedures is unclear, and Nakamoto’s inspection practices are not consistently thorough.
Other troubling findings include:
- Inspectors rely on written policies and procedures instead of observing and evaluating actual facility conditions
- Inspectors report that they interview detained immigrants as part of their review, but OIG observers “would not characterize them as interviews”
- Nakamoto inspectors lied about their findings on several occasions, for example reporting that outgoing toll-free phone calls to the OIG hotline were available at one facility when OIG investigators observed that the phone system was not working
The OIG found that inspections administered by ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight (ODO) were more effective, but that those occur too infrequently to adequately detect or correct violations. Furthermore, the OIG confirmed that all Nakamoto and ODO inspections are announced in advance, which, according to ICE field staff, “allows facility management to temporarily modify practices to ‘pass’ an inspection.”
The OIG also found that ICE field offices are inconsistent, and often unresponsive, in implementing corrective action plans when inspectors report deficiencies, and too often allow jails and prisons to waive their own compliance with certain standards.
“This is yet another piece of evidence of how ICE lies and actively hides information from the public, only adding to its long-standing, well-documented track record of abuse and mismanagement,” said Silky Shah, executive director of DWN. “ICE is rotten to its core — Congress must act swiftly to defund it.”